On July 25, 1853, a group of California Rangers ran into a group of suspected cattle rustlers and robbers in San Benito County in central California. The leader of this group was in infamous Joaquin Murrieta. Murrieta is an enigmatic figure: born in 1829, either in Chile or in Mexico (pretty amazing a fact like that would be so widely discrepant!). He and his wife, Rosita, made their way to California during the Gold Rush of 1848-49, but Murrieta proved to not be too successful as a miner. Instead, he turned to a life of cattle rustling and robbery founding a band known as the Five Joaquins. The nature of this band depends on who you ask – the many Mexicans resident in California during the short time since annexation by the United States viewed Murrieta as a hero, fighting against unjust treatment by the new American authorities. To the Americans, he was a common thug. On that fateful day in 1853, California lawmen met up with the band in a narrow pass in San Benito and a shoot-out took place. In the end, Murrieta and another of his men lay dead. His legend lives on, however. Murrieta is often seen as one of the inspirations for Jonathan McCulley’s legendary hero of the west, Zorro.
Sources: Weiser, Kathy. “Joaquin Murrieta: Patriot or Desperado?” Legends of America. December 2013.
Featured Image. “The Curse of Capistrano – Zorro.” By Comic Book Justice (Part 2), Public Domain.
Figure 1: “Exhibition of the Head.” By Not given – http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/DoSearch?databaseID=968&index=w&terms=00042684, Public Domain.